As January 1st draws closer, you may be thinking about New Year’s resolutions and other family plans for next year. But before you look ahead, it’s important to take some time to look back. Good endings are necessary to make way for great beginnings. An archer has to draw their arm back to shoot forward; in the same way, pausing to look back and reflect will help you take aim for the coming year.
Here are five ways you can end the year well by having a meaningful family annual review.
1. Share memories.
Have a special meal together when you all take the time to reflect; maybe present everyone with a formal invitation requesting their presence, asking them to dress up nicely, and be prepared to answer some questions. They might include a personal highlight from the year, a tough situation they had to deal with, and a special family memory they recall. Also, ask them to bring a show-and-tell item from the year—it could be anything from a first-place medal to the plaster cast that finally came off that broken arm after six itchy weeks. You could make this Memories Meal a part of your annual holiday celebrations, as it’s been recognized that traditions help build strong families.
2. Shape a keepsake.
Ask everyone to choose some of their favorite photos from the year, and to caption them. You could then put together a slideshow on your laptop or tablet to watch as part of your Memories Meal, or at another time. Maybe you would also want to use the gallery you make as your computer’s screensaver for the coming year or load it on a digital photo frame for the family room. Each time you see it, you’ll be reminded throughout the new year that it’s not just another day to get through, but an opportunity to build more memories for the future. You may also want to read these 6 Great Ideas for Organizing Family Memories.
3. Swap life lessons.
Emphasize the importance of always being open to learning new things by pausing to think about some of your “aha” moments. Perhaps you discovered something new about yourself. Invite the others to talk about a new skill they may have developed or a surprising fact they discovered. Make a list of the books you have read, and what takeaway lesson you took from them.
4. Shower gratitude.
Chances are you haven’t gotten through the year without some help along the way. Make a point of thinking about some of the people who made your life richer through the year, one way or another: your friends, your neighbor, your work colleague, your auto mechanic. Kids may think of friends, teachers, coaches, grandparents. When you’ve identified who you’re each grateful for, let them know—write a note, send a card, or make a phone call. Make it richer by being specific about what you appreciated. Here are some more ideas on how to make the Two Powerful Words that Can Transform Your Relationship—“thank you”—even more meaningful.
5. Show generosity.
Having acknowledged the ways other people may have helped you through the year, don’t stop there. Allow your appreciation to be a spur for doing the same for others in the coming year. As a family, discuss ways you might be generous in the months ahead. Maybe you’ll agree to sacrifice a family meal and to give the money you save to a worthy cause, or give up a Saturday morning to help with your church or a charity. As you think more about How to Model Generosity to Your Kids, remember that we can give more than just money—things like our time and our talents. Here are some more ideas on How to Teach Generosity to Your Kids.
Which of these ideas most resonates with you, and why? What might you add to the list of ways to end the year well as a family? Share your thoughts below.